Brooklyn Clergy Take Capitol Hill-Room Eight New York Politics
More than a week the question on Capitol Hill was “Who are these clergy and where did they come from?” More than 100 clergy, members of Brooklyn-based Churches United to Save and Heal (CUSH), descended upon Capitol Hill Wednesday, Oct. 21 to press Congress for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). Two buses made the one-day trek from the 11th congressional district in Brooklyn and were hosted by Rep. Yvette Clarke. CUSH clergy, with ties to more than 2 dozen Caribbean and African countries, lobbied on behalf of tens of thousands of their parishioners. Clergy from Maryland and Illinois joined the group.
Once in DC,, the group was greeted by New York’s Carolyn Maloney and Mike Honda from California. The clergy organized themselves into groups and fanned throughout the Longworth, Cannon, and Rayburn office buildings to meet with various congressional representatives. Face-to-face meetings took place with Rep. Joseph Crowley and John Conyers, who had so many clergy in his office, he called Rep. Luis Gutierrez (Illinois) to assist in the dialog. Other groups of clergy met with the staff of Reps. Gary Ackerman, Scott Murphy, Xavier Becerra, Kendrick Meek, Alcee Hasting, Gregory Meeks, James Clyburn, Louise Slaughter, Jesse Jackson, Jr., and Laura Richardson. Peter King refused outright to meet with the clergy. The CUSH clergy were consistent with their message. They are advocating for CIR built upon a three pillars: family unity, a “Good Neighbor” policy, and a fair and equitable pathway to citizenship.
During a press conference in front of the Capitol building, Congresswoman Clarke said she is pleased to see “a call has gone out to clergy of our communities — communities of immigrants that come from around the world. Communities of immigrants of African descent, who seek, like all other immigrants who have come to this nation, pathways to citizenship. They are caught in a struggle that America is having with itself. When we turn our backs on those who come to these shores to become Americans, to be a part of the building of our great nation and to embrace the American dream, we are turning our backs on ourselves. This group of leaders understand that the future strength and development of our nation depends on our ability to embrace our collective humanity so that we can all make this a more productive, prosperous nation.”
According to Bishop Orlando Findlayter, Chairman of CUSH, “We have come to Capitol Hill to let elected officials know that we as religious leaders are concerned about the way undocumented immigrants are treated in the United States of America. Frankly, we believe the immigration policy of the United States is racist.” Findlayter explained, “As we see it, those from Africa, those from the Caribbean don’t get Visas as easily as those that come from Eastern Europe. We believe the system is unfair. No longer will we be silent on the issue of immigration reform. We have come to advocate; we have come to pray; we have come to let them know we are the voice of the voiceless. We believe hard working people should be rewarded. We are asking both houses of Congress to pass a law that is fair and that will treat everyone as equals. We have come because we want comprehensive immigration reform.”
A group of 10 clergy made a special sojourn to the Hart Senate office building for a personal meeting with U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and were joined by representatives of Immigration Reform. The Senator said he has been working on a CIR bill and assured the assembled clergy he would introduce it by Feb. or March – or sooner if the Obama administration makes it a priority. Schumer told the group he promised Senator Kennedy he would get the bill passed.
At day’s end, Rep. Clarke hosted a reception for members of CUSH. Reps. Barbara Lee, Luis Gutierrez, Donna Christensen, and Ed Towns expressed support for CIR. Representatives of immigration advocacy groups – including Marshall Fitz (American Progress), Gabriella Hillariel (New York Immigration Coalition), America’s Voice), Rick Stoltz, (Reform Immigration for America), Greg Staft (America’s Voice) and NYC Councilman Kendall Stewart – described their work on behalf of CIR. Joshua DuBois, who heads the White House Office of faith-based Initiatives addressed the group, as well as Carlos Odio from the White House Office of Political Affairs and Paul Monteiro from the White House Office of Public Engagement.
Bishop Findlayter said “No longer is the face of immigration reform Latino.” Members of CUSH demonstrated that diversity when they led a march on Church Ave. a couple of weeks ago calling for comprehensive immigration reform.
See video: Brooklyn Clergy and Community March in Favor of Immigration Reform